Over 65 people from across South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust put on their sports kit to get involved with the first learning disability football fun day of the year at The Zone in Huddersfield.
The first session of 2014 took place on 19 March and saw a host of service users, carers, Trust staff and special sporting guests turn up to have a kick about.
Nigel McLoughlin, professional lead nurse for learning disabilities at the Trust, said: “It is amazing to see a project that we thought would only be a one-off just grow and grow. We are seeing a huge social return on our investment in this project – it shows both the value for money and the social partnerships, skills and knowledge that develop as a result of the investment. Not only do we have an unbelievable number of people turning up, but the feedback from service users and carers is amazing.”
The fun days are funded by the Trust’s Creative Minds strategy, which develops community partnerships and co-funds creative projects in Barnsley, Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield, and in the Trust’s forensic and specialist services.
Four fun days are held throughout the year and are aimed at low ability and low fitness service users. The sessions are run on two indoor pitches – one which gives people a chance to play a game of five-a-side style football and develop their skills, and another which focuses on ball-associated activities.
Getting involved in exercise and sport is said to improve the service users’ confidence, self-esteem, social skills, and physical wellbeing.
Nigel continued: “The events accommodate everyone from those who are quite able-bodied to people with severe learning disabilities – even people in wheelchairs. They are so popular. Each activity is adjusted to meet the needs of the people who come to our events and we have seen people grow hugely in confidence.”
“One of the biggest benefits of the sessions is that they’re held at The Zone in Huddersfield which is a mainstream venue holding a lot of keep fit activities throughout the week. It breaks down barriers having our learning disability sports in and amongst the regular sports held at The Zone.”
Local rugby team Huddersfield Giants swapped sports for the day and got involved with the session. The football events have a number of different activities taking place on ‘bases’, including physical and co-ordination exercises, and the Giants pitched up on one of the bases to get service users involved in rugby-based activities.
Aspiring young football coaches from Huddersfield Town Academy also attended the session to learn how to co-ordinate learning disability sports.
Nigel commented: “It’s great that we can not only provide these events for service users, but also for young people in the community who can enhance their skills and open their minds through working with people with learning disabilities. A number of new people came to the event and were in awe – they said they had never seen anything like it.”
Further sessions will be held throughout the year at The Zone on 17 June, 16 September and 9 December. You can find out more by contacting the Trust’s inclusion team, email@example.com